Call for presidential debates
GÜNDÜZ VASSAFThe new Turkish president will be elected by popular vote for the first time in the nation’s history.
There’s little time before August 10.
Yet the parties waited until the last possible moment before announcing their candidates. In their petty inner party politics they ignored the electorate, giving people little chance to compare candidates.
In some countries, candidates are declared as much as a year before elections and their platforms made public. That the Turkish people have had more chances and more time in the past to evaluate US presidential candidates than they have today for their own is an insult to the nation and its people.
Even presidents running for a second term who looked certain to win, did not shy away from presenting their goals and programs to the people long before the elections.
The Turkish electorate has been deprived of the opportunity to make a considered choice. Yet another example of “democracy from above.” What the kingmakers are saying is “Vote and leave the rest to us.”
Two of the three candidates are barely known by the people. The present frontrunner not only has the advantage of having held the office of the prime minister for the last eleven years, but also has full access to unlimited state resources while going into elections.
There is one last chance to help level the playing field.
A presidential debate.
The country is at a crossroads.
Not only in terms of its orientation in world politics but also with respect to a change in its political system.
In the short time ahead of us, the three presidential candidates should come together at least twice to discuss both national and foreign policy. Among the critical issues to be taken up are their views on a new constitution, the Kurdish question, university autonomy and academic freedom, nuclear energy, the Middle East, European Union, and secularism.
I can already hear the advisors to the frontrunner saying,
“Don’t! You’ll win hands down anyway!”
But I know that they’re just as aware the election could hang on a few percentage points, and that their candidate needs to present a presidential face, rather than what the nation has become accustomed to. Running away from a debate will not do. Especially for a man who has built his charisma on his confidence.
To this end, a growing petition calling for a presidential debate (change.org/adaylaracagri), a petition that is finding increasing support from the media, will be dangerous for him to resist.